Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, every Thursday on the KEXP Blog.
"There’s a childish part of me that wants to be tended to and understood," Lushloss, aka Seattle producer/songwriter Olive Jun told me in an email interview last month. "I think Asking provides a lens for people to see me through to fulfill that feeling."
The pursuit for being understood isn't an uncommon theme in art. Often times it's that feeling of being apart and alone that incites artists to create in the first place. So, somewhat ironically, Jun is in a long lineage of artists who share a common feeling of feeling out of place. Her latest album, Asking/Bearing, gets its official release tomorrow via Hush Hush Records (tapes came out last month). I say this without hesitation that it may be one of the most open, naked, and moving records I've heard in years. Jun sought out to be understood and she's given more than I can truly recall hearing from another artist. The closest recent parallels I can think of are Mount Eerie's A Crow Looked At Me and Nick Cave's Skeleton Tree, both immensely powerful reflections on death. However Asking/Bearing isn't about death – it's about living and just how hard it can be.
The record is split into two distinct parts: Asking and Bearing. Bearing most closely resembles a beat tape, showcasing Jun's incredible knack for blending swells of synthesizers with minimalist, nearly hip-hop beats. I really don't want to downplay just how great this side of the record is and minimize Jun's exceptional skills at creating emotive, fluttering beats that feel like they exist in that nebulous area between falling in love and having your heart broken. However, Asking leaves us with a lot to digest and take in and it also truly deserves your time.
In the last minute of dreamy album opener "St Marco," the music starts to fall apart and suddenly we're thrust into a Skype conversation between Jun and her mother. Jun laughs a little nervously, mentioning that it's been so long since she heard her old name spoken. Jun is a trans woman and delves into what that looks like on an intimate, heavy-hearted way intermittently with her mother and throughout the songs on Asking. Within a song, Jun will pitch her voice up and down, fuzz it out, turn it down, sample it; utilizing her vocals as another instrument to fill out the sound of the record, but also, as she mentioned in her interview, as an effort to remove gender from her performance.
Having the Skype clips juxtaposed to to her tender compositions create a beautiful and harrowing tapestry of Jun's life. Hearing an distorted, acoustic confessional like "Clark, WA" against a clip of her mother talking about how she doesn't want to talk about her own father's death gives even more gravity to situation. Jun is hurting, but so is her mom. Pain isn't exclusive to one human experience. She keeps the awkwardness of Skype intact as well, with confused calls of "hello? Are you still there?" kept in. It's the organic moments like when her mother says "You have to be okay until we get together" that feel especially human and real.In a week where the trans rights are once again being attacked on the federal level by the current White House administration, there's more need for empathy than ever. Asking/Bearing isn't a political record, but increasingly forces are trying to politicize what it means to be trans. This is a record the world needs right now. It's a record about understanding, pleading, and –above all else – empathy. To say that Asking/Bearing is just about the trans experience would be inaccurate when really it's a snapshot of what it's like to be a human. This is the type of art that doesn't just help the artist be understood, but can help others to understand what an experience unlike their own can look like. Share this record with the people you love and the people you don't see eye to eye with. Asking/Bearing shows us the weight of one human experience and how it can open our eyes to troubles we normally might not see. This is empathy we all need to hear right now.
If you've ever seen Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio perform live, you know just how joyous and energetic of a show they put on. Whenever the soul group gets on stage, you can tell just how hard they're working on putting on the best show with the best music they can. It looks like all of that is paying off as the band has now announced that they're singing to Ohio-based Colemine Records. After seeing their set at Upstream (video below), I can't wait to see what they do with Colemine. The label owners Terry and Bob Cole seem to agree.
"Super funky, in the pocket soul jazz, this record is right in our wheelhouse and we are proud to help spread the word about this great record and band!" says Terry Cole.
"Both Terry and I think this is the first step in applying the dirty soul production style to some more jazz leaning groups," adds Bob Cole.
Darto Releases New Single "I Am"
Last week I mentioned that Darto were releasing a new record, Human Giving, on Sept. 8. Now we've gotten our first taste with the single "I Am." It's... not at all what I expected, which is exactly what I hope for with a band like Darto. Gone is the tumultuous noise of their debut LP hex and instead we're treated to layers of acoustic guitar, cellos, synthesizer warbles, and hypnotically harmonized monotone voices. "I Am" feels like a mantra, exploring self-identity with layers of expansive instrumentation. Who knows if this is an indication of what the rest of the record will sound like. I just can't wait to hear it all.
YourYoungBody Drops Devotion Singles
It's been a couple years since we've heard new tracks from electronic duo YourYoungBody, the last thing being their excellent 2015 Betrayer EP. They haven't really been gone though — the band has become a fierce live act, playing frequently around town. Now the darkening act is back with some bold, exciting new tracks with their Devotion singles. The two propulsive tracks highlight both ends of the band's spectrum with the pensive and wondrous "Intentions" against the dance-like enthusiasm of "4ever." YYB just keeps getting better.
BlkSknn's Drops New Summer17 EP
Don't know who BlkSknn is? You will. The Seattle rapper hasn't been on the scene long, but he may be already one of the hardest working artists in the city. Earlier this year he dropped a killer tape called Small World, you might have seen him selling copies over by Westlake or at the Fremont Solstice Parade. Last week he came back again with the Summer17 EP, offering up even more summer jams to ride out into the sunset to. I'm continually impressed by BlkSknn's dexterity on the mic. You can just feel his enthusiasm bursting through your headphones. Keep an eye on this guy.
Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in th...
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The M...
If day one of Capitol Hill Block Party had that much energy with everyone arriving after work, day two never stood a chance. Fully rested, hangovers nursed, and a fresh set of bands to gawk over; fans at CHBP were ready to up the ante. Thankfully there was a wealth of local artists to help quench...
Throwaway Style is a weekly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it's a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that's been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in th...